CSA Bonus Week, 2021

It’s so exciting to start a fresh, new year! This week is just a little preview of the true CSA season that will start in a few weeks. When I do farm walks, I do a visual inventory of what might be harvestable for all 150 families in the upcoming week. I’ve been watching and evaluating the last few weeks, and when I could finally identify five harvestable items, I made the decision to do a Bonus harvest. Five seems like a reasonable number to expect that people will want to come and pick up; the minimum number of items, I think, to justify a trip to the farm or pick up location. And since I’m no longer going to a farmers’ market, the CSA gets everything.

Clockwise from top left:
Rapini (Broccoli Rabe) or Miners’ Lettuce, Leeks, Sauté Mix, Fresh Thyme, and Purple Savoy Cabbage.

All of the items that are ready now have been in the ground since last fall. I did the last plantings in September of 2020, and they’ve been chilling and/or growing since then. I’ve listed the items in your share above, and included clickable links to the things you may need help learning how to prepare.

Bitter and sweet, Rapini, or Broccoli Rabe are the flowering shoots of turnips.

Other exciting news at the farm:

You may have followed the planting of the farm’s acre of native habitat. Emily and I planted all the trees several weeks ago when they were ready to pick up. 300+ native conifer and deciduous trees, and flowering and fruiting shrubs. (Actually, she did most of the planting, and I did the fence removal and marking of flags). In the years to come, they will provide habitat and home for the wild birds and mammals that already call Whistling Train Farm home, and I’m hopeful that it will attract even more species as it matures. You may or may not know that the farm is an Audubon Hot Spot, and we’ve begun to attract a flock of active birders.

In response to interest from aspiring and experienced birders, we will soon be setting up a Birder Station, with birding maps, a weekly Bird List (species seen on the farm and where to likely find them), tips for identification, a sign-in station, and (as suggested by birders) a birdseed fund donation jar. Everyone who visits the farm is welcome to participate, and I’m really excited to share my urban wildlife oasis with anyone who is interested.

The propagation house is filling up with seedlings, and the other greenhouses have all been planted with early crops: Peas, Carrots, Salad Turnips, Radishes, Spinach, Arugula, Cilantro, and Chervil. Already I’ve planned the next successions of crops that will follow those early things… like the first Snap Beans and Cucumbers, Tomatoes, and Peppers. This week looks dry, after today, and I’m hoping to get the first outdoor crops planted, including Fava Beans, the first outdoor peas, beets and turnips, spinach, kale, chard, broccoli, and so many more.

Emily and I planted over 300 native trees and shrubs in what will become an acre of habitat to host native species.

I’m very excited about the new, improved CSA U-Pick Garden! It’s going to be bigger and better than ever before, with tidy beds of many herbs and flowers that should last from early June and into October. Bush peas and beans will go in as soon as we can get the ground ready, and the Pumpkin Patch will be right next door to the flowers so you can watch them grow. I’m also excited about repeating the glorious Sunflower Patch, and planting two varieties to extend the glory for several more weeks.

I’m really pleased to have been forced into this new CSA-Only farm model, and to have a better idea what to expect as the season gets going. Unlike the chaos of last spring, where every week was a different experiment in marketing and producing food, this year feels much more stable and satisfying already. The FarmStand will open May 1, with seasonal fruits and vegetables from very local farms. And if you haven’t pre-ordered your garden plant start kids, be sure to do it soon. Pick up will happen the weekend of April 17. In just three weeks you can have a full garden of the same varieties that I’m growing here on the farm, and you can choose from vegetables, companion flowers, or culinary herbs. Click here to pre-order from the online FarmStand.

The Propagation Greenhouse is filling up with baby plants!

I hope you are looking forward to this season as much as I am. It’s going to be a great one!

CSA Week 7

More to come…

Clockwise from Top Left: Spinach (not in Mini Shares), Garlic Scapes, Shungiku (not innMini Shares), Swiss Chard, Red Leaf Lettuce, Cilantro or Dill, Radishes.

CSA Week 4: May Mini Heat Wave

NO CSA PICKUP Saturday, May 16–Tuesday, May 19!

CSA Week 4

Clockwise from Top Left: Pea Shoots, Mint, Dandelion Greens, Green Garlic, Red Butter Lettuce, Green Butter Lettuce, Radishes, Parsley, Cauliflower

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Baby Cauliflowers or Braising Greens (not in Mini Shares)
• Radishes
Green Garlic 
• Green Butter Lettuce
• Fresh mint
• Italian Parsley
• Red Butter Lettuce (not in Mini Shares)
• Dandelion Greens (Large Shares only)
Pea Shoots (Large Shares only)

COMING SOON: Spinach, Pea Shoots, Lettuces, Garlic Scapes


Unfortunately, just as we’re all figuring out the new CSA system, and getting a routine in place, we were hit by a weekend heat wave. We got up to 89°, which is a big swing from the upper 60°’s of the weeks before. That jump in temperature caused the indoor crops to either turn yellow or go to flower. And most of the outdoor crops are still too small to harvest. That means not enough to go around in the week to come. And THAT means no CSA harvest in the coming week. 

I hope you enjoy the special items this week. It’s highly unusual to have local cauliflower in May… and it was a gamble. The seed is from the Netherlands, and is very expensive, from a special breeding program (not involving genetic modification, just standard hybridization). It’s designed to overwinter and start forming heads in February as the days start to get longer, and I’m so excited and amazed that it worked! I started them last July, so it does take nearly 10 months of growing time, but what a special treat! Unfortunately there weren’t enough for everyone… Tuesday small and large shares will get the first of the summer cauliflower. I PROMISE.

I planted the seed for these bonus cauliflowers back in July of last year. We planted them out in September, and they’ve sat all winter waiting to reveal themselves. It’s a miracle of selective plant breeding.

The lettuces are early because I started them in February and transplanted them in a greenhouse in early April. There are more, and by next week they should be full size. 

This new big tent is our Farm Stand! Right now it’s open only on Sundays from 10-2, but in June we’ll be open Wednesday-Sunday, hours, tbd. I’ll be bringing in Hayton Farms Berries, Collins Orchards tree fruits, Honey, and other assorted produce that I am not able to have available all the time.

This is the busiest planting time…and the days are full of ground preparation and seeding, and weeding. No time to waste, there’s so much food to grow! 

The Sugar Snap Peas outside are growing fast! They’re now a foot tall and trellised. Ready to bloom and make us all sweet peas to eat!

The biggest change on the farm recently is the addition of our BIG TENT that houses the new farm stand. It’s been a bit of a learning curve, but it’s been busy and is filling the money gap that came from closed farmers markets. Stop in and see: Open Sundays 10-2 through May, but we’ll be open Wednesday-Sunday starting in June. 

See you NEXT WEEK!

Yes, CSA Pickup 5/9-5/12 This Week!

Spring Cauliflower is a miracle of plant breeding, and a trick of timing. I’ll go into depth in the big newsletter post this weekend.

Quick update here:

The warmer weather has made it possible to do CSA harvest this week! You can look forward to baby heads of Cauliflower, red and green Butter Lettuces, fresh Herbs, and more!

The regularly-scheduled, in-depth Newsletter Post will happen this weekend.

Happy Spring! 🌻

Greenhouse lettuces planted in early February are ready now!

CSA Week 3: Green Theme

Clockwise from Top Left: Sweet Salad Turnips, Turnip Greens, Stir-Fry Mix, Green Shallots, Spicy Salad Mustard (Large Shares only), Arugula, Miners’ Lettuce, Green Garlic, Sorrel (Large Shares only)

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Salad Turnips
• Green Shallots (use like Green Onions or Spring Onions)
Green Garlic 
• Arugula
• Miners’ Lettuce
• Stir-Fry Greens Mix (not in Mini Shares)
• Spicy Salad Mustard (Large Shares only)
Sorrel (Large Shares only)

COMING SOON: Spinach, Radishes, Pea Shoots, Lettuces

This succulent spring gem is fondly known as Winter Purslane, but it’s not related to the summer Purslane. I like it simply dressed with a light vinaigrette. It’s crunchy and juicy and holds us over until lettuce comes along.

Spring is definitely here! I know my post is late, but I hope you enjoyed all the green, leafy things in your bag this week! 

Unfortunately, just as we’re all figuring out the new CSA system, and getting the bugs worked out (so to speak), I’m going to have to pause the packaging for a bit. We’ve reached that awkward stage between spring and summer, where the overwintered and February-planted crops are finished and the April planted crops are still too small to harvest. I call it the Spring Slump. 

I whizzed up a quick batch of pesto this week with a few stems of Green Garlic and two bunches of Arugula. Stuffed it in the food processor with some olive oil and salt and pepper. Great as a dip or as pesto.

So, there will be NO CSA PICKUP Saturday May 2 through Tuesday May 5. I’m hoping that this is just a one-week break, but I may have to skip another week. I’ll just have to see what happens with the weather over the next few days. If I harvest too early, while things are small, they don’t make as many bunches, and we’ll end up skipping another week down the line. 

Rest assured though, SO MUCH goodness will be coming. We’ve been busy planting and cultivating and, even irrigating already. There is going to be plenty of food once we get over this slump. 

Baby Cauliflower! I planted seeds for these in July, and put the plants outside in early September. 7 months later, we have these!

The good of this wee break is that it gives us time to focus on getting more ground ready to plant. May is serious go-time for the rest of the season. The seed potatoes will be here Monday, and planting them is an all-day job alone. There are tomatoes to transplant, squash and cucumbers to get going, and carrots to weed. Not to mention, it’s time to get the u-pick gardens going! 

Lettuce is coming soon!

It’s going to be an amazing season.. we still have 33 weeks left to eat through, and I appreciate your patience and support. Look for photos and updates soon!

CSA Week 2: Working out the Kinks

Clockwise from Top Left: Italian Parsley, Green Garlic, Green Shallots, Kale, Purple Radishes, Fresh Thyme, and Purple Sprouting Broccoli.

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Green Kale with a few Broccolini mixed in
Green Garlic
• Purple Radishes (try making pesto with the tender greens!)
• Green Shallots (use like Green Onions or Spring Onions)
• Fresh Thyme (not in Mini Shares)
• Italian Parsley (Large Shares only)

COMING SOON: Salad Turnips, Spinach, Stir-Fry Greens, Pea Shoots, Lettuces

Chris and I have been talking about opening a roadside farm stand since last year. And with the closure of farmers markets, we decided that this was the time to start. Phase 1 is this Sunday-only conversion of the CSA pickup shed. A big tent is on the way for upcoming weeks in the near future. Check the farm Facebook page for updates and open hours. So exciting!

The first week of CSA is always hectic and frazzled. I’m not the most organized person, so I inevitably put a few people in the wrong pickup location, or on the wrong day. But this year’s first week was even more special.

Usually by mid-April, I’m also preparing to go to farmers market for the first time. But even though the governor includes farms and farmers markets in his list of essential businesses, Seattle’s mayor believes otherwise. She believes that farmers markets are “events”, like a street fair, and that they are expendable. Farmers markets were closed for over a month. And even now that University District and Ballard have been allowed to open again, it is only with heavy-handed security and scrutiny. We farmers have been watching the farmers market scenario warily. And a few weeks ago, the uncertainty became a real concern. We were all worrying about how we were going to make any money for the summer and high season. How much should we plant? How would we distribute it? As restaurants shuttered or closed-down for good, those of us who were able to, changed marketing plans overnight. My email inbox started blowing-up. So many people were suddenly interested in joining the CSA. 

This is the new face of CSA distribution, pandemic-style. I don’t want to use all the bags and disposable packaging, but I don’t really have a choice while we’re social distancing. I am doing my best to use as little as possible, I assure you.

My plan going into this year was to shrink the CSA to about 75 shares, and increase my farmers market sales and restaurant sales. Obviously that was no longer going to pan out. So I increased the CSA to 120 shares. In two days. And then I realized that I could handle another 30 families if I really cut back on farmers market plans. CSA is a sure thing that customers want and that I can fulfill. Because we still don’t know when the farmers market will be open again. 

I literally spent three days at my computer last week. Answering emails, creating and tracking new Seattle pickup locations, and reworking planting plans. I wouldn’t be able to reuse packaging, so I needed to come up with an inexpensive, but disposable way to package everyone’s share so that there would be no cross-handling. I don’t want to use disposable plastic and paper, but I don’t have a choice right now. I am using as little packaging as I possibly can. Please don’t return any bags or rubber bands, because I can’t reuse them. 

Got a bunch planted before the rain came Tuesday night! This is my new seed hopper for the mechanical planter I use for direct-seeding crops. Somehow the farm tool gremlins came over the winter and took my old one off the planter… no idea where it went. The seed goes in the hopper, and there are various sized rollers that slip inside depending on the seed size being planted.

That brings me to my next note: Spring is an incredibly crazy time, with a never-ending to-do list. If you don’t hear from me when I say I’ll update, I’m probably still in the field. As Shawna, my friend and marketing partner says,  “After three days of pulling a farm stand out of nothing and fielding CSA inquiries the forecast finally switched to rain so instead of calling it a day I started a whole new day of planting on top of deliveries.” And so I did! I had a little nap after deliveries, and went out to plant until dark fell: spinach, cilantro, dill, stir-fry greens, arugula, beets, carrots, turnips, and pea shoots. And then the rain came, and it felt like a miracle after this unusually dry April. 

No Contact doesn’t have to mean No Community! Come down to the farm stand and chat at a distance while you pick up some fresh produce! Updates on the farm Facebook page.

The other piece of this new marketing plan is the opening of our roadside stand at the farm! Chris and I have been talking about it since last year, but couldn’t quite make it happen until now. But with farmers markets closed, and the future of farmers markets in question, or at least high-security, it seemed like a good time to dive in. I was so happy to offer contactless shopping and payment, AND an opportunity to socialize. It was a huge success, and we plan on being open on Sundays only through May, and then Wednesday-Sunday beginning in June.

And now that we have the second CSA Week and the first farmstand opening under our belts, hopefully things will level out and normalize. I’m looking forward to finding some semblance of a routine in the chaos of spring. 

Thank you all so much for your incredible support and for your patience! ❤️❤️❤️

Yes there is CSA pickup this week! April 21

I’ll write this afternoon!

CSA Week 1, Pandemic Edition

Clockwise from Top Left: Italian Parsley, Green Garlic, Chives, Kale Broccolini, Thyme, Purple Radishes, Purple Sprouting Broccoli

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

Purple Sprouting Broccoli
Kale Broccolini
Green Garlic
• Purple Radishes (try making pesto with the tender greens!)
• Chives
• Italian Parsley (not in Mini Shares)
• Fresh Thyme (Large Shares only)

COMING SOON: Salad Turnips, Green Shallots, Spinach, Stir-Fry Greens, Pea Shoots, Lettuces

I plant the seeds for this broccoli in July, put the plants out in August, and then we wait. In April, if all goes well, we are rewarded with a bounty of purple deliciousness.

In a normal season, I would be prepping to go to my first farmers market of the year. At some point I may be back at West Seattle, but that will be largely up to the Farmers Market Association and the mayor of Seattle. I am working on opening a FARM STAND, and I’ll be offering fruit and eggs, and some vegetables that I don’t grow, in addition to the things we grow right here.

Some things are ready now, in April: the Purple Sprouting Broccoli, the Green Garlic, Green Shallots. I have Kale, Italian Parsley, Thyme, Chives. All of these things have survived the winter. Radishes are ready in one of the greenhouses, Salad Turnips are coming along, as well as lettuce, spinach, and stir-fry greens.

Anyone can have red radishes from the store… I choose purple.

As the chaos of Coronavirus hit us here, the weather changed. And suddenly it was Go Time. The spring hustle: breaking ground, spreading fertilizer, and working to get seeds in the ground before the rain arrived. And now, there’s nary a drop in sight and we’re turning on irrigation.

Ku Lor grows cut flowers down the road. She has no place to sell bouquets with the farmers markets closed, so I’m offering them for sale at the farm stand. $15 each, Venmo or Zelle for no-contact payment please! Details at the farmstand.

I know I promised to put together this first blog post last Friday, and I will do so in the coming weeks, but I have been hit hard by the overwhelming demand for CSA shares! It’s a good problem to have, and I’m so happy to be able to provide a clean, local food source for you all! But the paperwork and organization was overwhelming, and I didn’t have time to get to it until after yesterday’s deliveries were finished.

This is what CSA delivery looks like in our pandemic era. No need to touch anyone else’s bag.

A few notes about how the blog-letter and website work: I’m going to do my best to post an update every weekend, so you know what you’re picking up and how to use it. If you’re ever in doubt, email me, and use the sidebar (over to the right) in the How to Eat It column. I’ve assembled recipes and suggestions for most unusual and many normal vegetables. I also attach hyperlinks to many items in the list above, you just need to click on them. ALSO: If you want to be notified when I post new posts, sign up in the little box at the top left sidebar. You’ll get these updates in your email inbox!

The first heads of yummy lettuce are in the ground now, and growing nicely in one of the greenhouses.

We are busy planting and cultivating so many things right now… crops that we’ll be harvesting all summer long! I’m really excited about this growing season. We are all going to eat well! Personally, I’m looking forward to the first crunchy Sugar Snap Pea, juicy Cucumber, and sweet head of Butter Lettuce.

I plant the seeds for this broccoli in July, put the plants out in August, and then we wait. In April, if all goes well, we are rewarded with a bounty of purple deliciousness.

Quick First Day of Spring Update

Yesterday I spotted the first bumblebee of 2020. She was hungry and working hard to take advantage of the beautiful, spring sunshine. How fitting that should would awake from her hibernation on the first day of Spring!

So much has changed in the world, on the farm, and in my home in the last 1-2 weeks, I’m working on an update. Farmers markets are closed, CSA is booming, and the weather has been amazing, so I’ve hardly been around my computer. But I want you all to know that I’m working on communications, when I’m not working up ground and planting seeds. And my farm plan is constantly evolving, day by day.

Just know this: the CSA will begin in just a few weeks, there will be deliveries to West Seattle if there is no farmers market, and we will all be eating delicious green things in less than 30 days.

Please be patient, and thank you so much for your ceaseless support of my farm and our local food system! A more detailed update is in the works!

Shelley

 

CSA Bonus Week and First Planting!

Things that survived the winter and want to be eaten! Brussels Sprouts, Savoy Cabbage, Candy Carrots, Beautiful Beets, Baby Daikon, and Komatsuna with Rapini (some folks got yummy kale instead).

THIS WEEK’S SUBSCRIBER MENU:

• Candy Carrots
• Baby Daikon
Sweet Beets
Brussels sprouts
• Savoy Cabbage
Komatsuna Rapini or Siberian Kale or Purple Mustard Greens

COMING SOON: Spring!

It’s not every year that there’s enough overwintered produce to pick a bonus week for CSA members, but there was this year! I hope you all enjoyed the mid-winter treats!

The first of the overwintered Purple Sprouting Broccoli plants are starting to strut their stuff. Won’t be long now!

This February has been mild compared to the past two winters. Only a passing threat of snow here, and a week or so of frosty nights. No Snowpocalypse. No deep freeze. That bodes well for our earliest harvests as well as our earliest plantings.

All cleaned up and ready to plant! I can plant in the greenhouses months before I can typically plant outside. It’s much warmer and dryer inside.

Last year we weren’t able to start planting until April, a full month later than what we’re used to. But things are looking good for a mid- or late-March planting of greens, roots, and favas. Fingers crossed!

The willows are getting ready to become fireworks! In a few weeks, these fuzzy catkins will erupt in a brilliant burst of scarlet and yellow, as they get ready to blast their pollen through the cosmos. Willow pollen is one of the first important foods for baby pollinators, especially bumblebees. Pollen=protein.

I was able to get a few of the greenhouses prepped and planted this week, and I’ve started a good many flats of transplants. The season is definitely under way. The earliest crop of greenhouse sugarsnap peas are already several inches tall, and onions, celery, and lettuces are popping up. Inside I’ve got the first carrots, beets, and spinach seeded, as well as turnips and radishes. We’re just 5-6 weeks away from the first official CSA harvest of the season. And my first market day.

The Fertilizer program I’m now using on the farm: (from top) Gypsum (calcium sulfate) because plants need sulfur in order to metabolize nitrogen; Soft Rock Phosphate (calcium phosphate) from deposits of ancient sea creatures buried in clay deposits, it is broken-down slowly and utilized by soil organisms; Lime (calcium carbonate) is made up of the skeletons and shells of tiny, ancient sea creatures and balances the soil pH while providing essential calcium to soil organisms and growing plants; Dolomite (magnesium carbonate) is formed from the sediments of ancient saltwater lagoons; Azomite is mined from an ancient deposit of volcanic ash in Utah. Because it originated volcanically, it is high in a wide range of trace minerals; and last is the Chicken manure and feather meal fertilizer I use to provide necessary nitrogen to the growing plants and soil organisms.

There are still a few spaces remaining in the CSA for 2020. Click here for the CSA enrollment form. 

But if you’re not able or ready to jump in with both feet, I still have Mystery Box subscriptions as well. Click here for Mystery Box information.